Burma Human Rights Network strongly condemns the Burmese court’s decision to charge Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo with violating 3.1(c) of the archaic Official Secrets Act and calls for their immediate release. The court’s decision demonstrates clearly that Burma is nowhere near the reformed country the international community had longed hoped it was becoming. The charges against the reporters are not only based on an outdated and anti-democratic law, but there is no evidence the law was even violated. If found guilty Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo may face up to 14 years in prison. The men were arrested while they were investigating mass killings of Rohingya Muslims by Burma’s security forces.
Kyaw Win, Executive Director of BHRN said, “The court’s decision to charge Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo for doing their jobs is a clear indication that Burma remains an oppressive and undemocratic country even under Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s authority. This is sending a signal to other journalists that doing their jobs honestly and with integrity will be punished severely. It is an absolute travesty of justice. These men should be released immediately”.
As June ends, widespread statelessness among Burmese Muslim migrants will become an urgent and serious issue in neighboring Thailand, according to a new report by the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN).
Existence Denied, launched on Tuesday, highlights the insecurity faced by this community at home and in their host country. Its publication precedes a June 30 deadline set by the Thai authorities for migrant worker registration, which BHRN fears many Burmese Muslims will be unable to meet due to systematic discrimination by the Burmese authorities charged with implementing the process.
By this date, Thailand has required that all migrant workers obtain a verification of their nationality—known as a Certificate of Identity (CI)—from officials from their home country so that they can work in Thailand legally. Failure to do so will result in crushing fines, deportation, and a two-year ban on re-applying for a work permit.
Burma Human Rights Network has released a report titled “Discrimination and Corruption Plague Burmese Passport System” detailing systemic discrimination and corruption found throughout Burma’s passport office. The report details the multiple mechanisms used by the Burmese authorities to further burden the Muslim community living inside of Burma.
The authorities have forced Muslims to identify themselves as various non-Burmese nationalities on their ID cards and use these nationalities to then classify Muslims as ‘Mixed blood’. When Muslims apply for their passports faced systematic discrimination. Witnesses also reported instances of corruption where officials insisted on bribes by minority applicants to process their applications.
One of the most alarming details in the report is the use of Burma’s Special Branch intelligence police to investigate the home addresses and backgrounds of Muslim applicants for no apparent reason other than to intimidate and inconvenience them. Authorities justify this form of harassment by saying it is for security purposes.